Forgiveness

•09/06/2017 • 2 Comments

There have been times in my relationships when I thought I had the purest of motives, when in reality I did not.  Someone had sinned intentionally or unintentionally against me and I felt offended and wronged. Instantly, I’m flooded with uncontrollable emotions of devastation, disappointment and disbelief. I’ve been offended and there needs to be an acknowledgement from my offender so that restitution can happen and the relationship restored. After all, it’s a Biblical precept, that believers follow. The Bible is clear about what has to happen. They must be aware of the offence and the pain I feel. In time, they will follow their conscience and be prompted by the Holy Spirit to settle the score. I wait for for restitution to happen, but only end up frustrated by their lack of attention.
It’s usually then, that I need to examine my motives and demands of others more closely.  I want to see myself as spiritually sensitive, mature and somehow justify my heart and actions.  But when I honestly and humbly dig beneath the surface, and take a closer look into my heart, it’s there I discover I’m not as spiritual and godly as I think I am.  I am reminded of my tendency toward self-righteousness and self-service. I discover that I want to validate my thoughts and emotions, believing that I have pure motives that come from a pure heart. 
As I diligently dig beneath the surface, I discover in the crevasses of my soul, hidden beneath the surface, in the depths of my conscience, a side of me I don’t like to acknowledge much less deal with.  It’s there that I discover a human part of me that leans toward my depraved nature. It’s when I dig deep, past the surface of what I want to see, I learn that I’m just as hypocritical as everyone else.  I seek self-justification and self- deception rather than humility, honestly admit my deprived soul has human tendencies like everyone else.
Recently, I got a call from someone who said they had just read Matthew 5 and they were prompted by the Holy Spirit to call me.  He asked if there was anything they had done for which they needed to seek forgiveness.  My first thought as I listened to his explanation was completely reactionary. Had he not ever read this verse before? He’s a man of the word like myself, I am sure he knew this verse had been tucked away in Matthew 5 all along? Why now, after so many years? Thankfully, I used restraint, took a deep breath and quickly said “No, there’s nothing I was harboring against him.” I informed him, that after forty years of pastoring, I had grown used to being wronged and offended by others thousands of times. If I harbored things people did to me over the years, I would not be able to function as a pastor. I’ve learned to release things rather quickly and I’ve develop a defensive mechanism pastors must learn or they would never be able to survive much less function.  After the conversation was over, my mind quickly raced to all the things that he could have admitted and apologized for but didn’t.  That’s when I found myself getting uncontrollably angry.  You see, I had harbored un-forgiveness in my heart even though I had buried it years ago. Why else was I so angry!  Then it hit me.  I wanted him to repent but I didn’t really want reconciliation.  Not with him anyway.  I simply wanted him to acknowledge his sin. That would somehow vindicate and validate my anger, resentment and hurt. 
There have been other times in my life in the past, when I felt wronged and believed I had biblical precedence for biblical restitution. I wanted the offender to apologize for their behavior and follow biblical guidelines when down deep, all I really wanted was validation and vindication for the wrong they had done. How dare I demand they follow biblical practices when all along I myself was being unbiblical and hypocritical.  I was demanding from others what I myself was unwilling to yield.  I felt justified somehow, righteous in my indignation and biblically right in my demand of others when all along I wanted them to feel remorse and repentance for actions committed, when it was I who needed to repent of my own self-righteousness.  I was harboring sin that Christ died for and I had no right to demand this self-indulgence.  I wanted justice in my own way, not in Gods way or in Gods timing.  Bitterness stems from un-forgiveness and I was slipping into the darkest crevasses of vindication and justification, finding myself worth in being right and demanding everyone else cater to my validation and vindication.  
It’s then that the Holy Spirit reminded me of Jesus.  While hanging on the cross He prayed the most amazing prayer; “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do!” If Jesus can forgive that way, why can’t I?  Yet, my fallen nature more often than not, chooses just the opposite.  I’ve become an expert in camouflage, masquerading and cover-up. If I’m not careful, even I can’t see my true heart unless the Holy Spirit reveals it to me. In my pain, I want justice for myself.  Validation and payback for my pain and suffering due to the infliction they have caused.  Unless I got it my way, forgives wasn’t real and reconciliation was denied between myself and the offending party. Not to mention a denial of their reconciliation with God. 
When Jesus forgave the woman caught in adultery he simply said “Go and sin no more!”  She had sinned against so many others in her sinful activity.  How many marriages and families did her lies and sin damage and destroy?  Yet, Christ after her accusers dropped their stones and fled, sent her away forgiven.  He did not demand her public humiliation, going to those she had hurt and asking for forgiveness. That had already happened. Jesus simply sent her away forgiven and free from guilt, shame and condemnation.  I know what some of you are asking right about now. I’ve asked it myself. What about biblical precedent?  We can all agree that we should follow biblical guidelines, but not for our own validation and vindication.  That’s as wrong as the offense the offender has committed.  We should rather let the Holy Spirit do the convicting and convincing. It’s then that we can check our hearts and motivations, responding quickly and rightly to Him.
Let’s be careful that in our demand for reconciliation, we not yield to these temptations and find ourselves vindicated and justified when grace is unmerited favor from God.  That means, not harboring ill feelings when someone does something wrong toward you. It means I don’t follow biblical guidelines for self-righteous, self-serving and self-centered reasons. Just give your pain and heartache to God and genuinely let it go. We are the ones who grow and benefit from it and God gets the glory for it. I know it is painful, but the Bible says we are too “rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Rom. 5:3-4) In Matthew 18:21-22 Jesus teaches about forgiveness. When Peter asked Jesus “how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times.” Jesus also said in Matthew 6:14-15; “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15) Let’s forgive quickly and forget completely, letting our Savior die once and for all, for our sins against God and our sins against one another. AMEN!

Burning Hearts

•04/17/2017 • Leave a Comment

Blessed are You God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to Your great mercy, You have caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us, who by Your power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time! (1 Peter 1:3-5).

For we were buried therefore with Christ by baptism into His death, in order that, just as He was raised from the dead by Your glory, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:4). Give us boldness to proclaim that Christ has been raised from the dead. Despite what some may say or think, we know that if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain, our faith is in vain and we are then found to be misrepresenting You!  And if Christ has not been raised, then our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. (1 Cor. 15:12-17).

But because Christ has been raised from the dead and is now alive, let us count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus our Lord. For His sake, we will suffer the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that we may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of our own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith-that we may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in his death, that by any means possible we may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil. 3:8-11)

Cause the hearts of those who hear us open and speak the scriptures about the power of the resurrection to burn with hope, conviction and faith in the resurrection. (Luke 24:32). May we like Your apostles, give testimony to the resurrection with great power so that a great grace will be upon us all. (Acts 4:33). IN JESUS NAME, AMEN!

Praying Psalms 23

•03/14/2017 • 1 Comment

Faithful, Great and Majestic LORD, You alone are our Shepherd.  You personally attend to our needs and it is You who provides all that we lack; we want for nothing.  We are able to rest in You because You have provided all the resources we will ever need.  As we feast upon Your word, we find nourishment and refreshment.  For You gently lead us to the place of still waters, where all fear and doubt are quieted and the deepest yearning of our hearts are completely satisfied.  You alone renew and revive our weary souls.  When we lack direction, and need guidance, You lead us down the path of righteousness, conforming us to Your will, so that we might represent all that’s in Your name.  How else can we keep holy and faithful in a fallen and dangerous world without Your guidance and care? LORD, revive, restore and renew our weary souls.

Even though we may live, labor and walk through the valley of the shadow of sin and death that often seems uncertain, frightening and confrontational; we will fear no evil.  For we know that You are with us. We are confident that You will protect us and we are sure You will guide us.  For You have provided our victory and You have prepared a table in advance in the presence of or enemies.  The world, the flesh and the even the devil himself are defeated and have no power over us.  For You have anointed us with Your Holy Spirit and we are ready for battle. Our cups are full and running over with all we will ever need. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our lives as we live and labor for You! Today, we enter into our mission field, knowing that we have Your continued presence, Your watchful protection, Your abundant provision and Your everlasting power. (Ps 23:1-6)

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip us with everything good that we may do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb 13:20-21)

Listen

•02/26/2017 • Leave a Comment

LORD, I often ask like Moses, “Who am I that I should go for You, to bring Your children out of bondage?” It’s then that I hear You say, “I will be with you! For ‘I AM’ the LORD GOD Who calls you, equips you, empowers you, sustains you and Who sends you. Because ‘I AM WHO I AM’ there’s nothing you will need today that I haven’t already provided. There’s nothing you will face where I haven’t already been at work. There no one you will encounter that I haven’t already dealt with. Therefore, stand in my strength and know that I AM the LORD GOD, and that I AM with you and it is I who has sent you!” (Ex 3:11-15).
LORD: Help us hear Your voice like Daniel, telling us not to fear. From the first day we set our hearts to understand and we humbled ourselves before You, our prayers were heard, and we know You are with us. (Dan. 10:12). May we be strengthened today like Daniel as you tell us that we are greatly loved, to fear not, that Your peace is with us; to be strong and of good courage!” Speak louder than any voice we may hear today assuring us of Your strength in us and through us! As You strengthen us we will be sure to declare; that it was You who strengthened us this day! (Dan. 10:18-19). IN JESUS NAME, AMEN!

By Your Spirit

•02/21/2017 • Leave a Comment

LORD Jesus, we want to be like You.  We want to be led by Your Spirit today. (Mat 4:1). As Your Spirit sent Philip to the Ethiopian (Acts 8:29) LORD send us.  May we respond as as quickly and run to those You are directing us to reach. May we like Philip open our mouths, and beginning with Scriptures tell others the good news about You LORD Jesus. (Acts 8:35) For You are already at work preparing hearts in advance for the message You have given us. So carry us by Your Spirit LORD, to the places and the people You have prepared, (Acts 8:39) and may we  boldly preach the Gospel to all we encounter along our way. (Acts 8:40)

For we want to be like You Jesus, who was full of the Holy Spirit, and who was led by the Spirit. (Luke 4:1) So as we move toward our assignment today, engaging in spiritual warfare, fill us with the Your Spirit, (Eph. 5:18). Cause us to live by the Spirit, and let us also keep in step with the Spirit. (Gal. 5:25). Like Barnabas, and Saul, set us apart for Your work.  For we like them have been sent out by Your Holy Spirit with His presence, power and purpose today. (Acts 13:1-4). Proclaim through us “the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Rom 1:16) Keep us ever mindful that all we need today has already been provided, for our Helper has already come, the One You sent from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father. For He will bear witness about You through us today as we also bear witness of You. (Jon. 15:26-27)

In Jesus name, Amen!

Prayer

•09/01/2015 • 2 Comments

Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! We will extol You, our God and King, and bless your name forever and ever. Today and every day we will bless You and praise Your Holy name forever and ever. For You are our GREAT LORD, and greatly to be praised, for Your greatness is unsearchable. We shall commend Your awesome works today, and we shall declare your mighty acts. We will declare your greatness and pour forth the fame of Your abundant goodness and shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
For You LORD are gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. We will give thanks to you, O LORD, for all that You have abundantly provided! We will speak and sing of the glory of your kingdom and declare Your POWER so that the the children of man might believe in Your mighty deeds, and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures throughout all generations. Because You are faithful, You open your hand and provide for our every need and You satisfy the desires of our hearts! You will uphold us when we are falling and You will raise us up when we bow down! You will fulfill our desires because we respect and rely upon You! And You will save us as we place our trust in You alone! Because of Your great faithfulness, kindness, grace and love, our mouths will speak and sing praises to You LORD, so that all who who hear bless Your Holy name forever and ever. (Ps. 145:1-21)
YOU LORD, are our strength and our shield; in You our hearts will trust, and will be helped; our hearts exult YOU, and with our songs we will give our thanksgiving and praise to You alone! (Ps. 28:7)Prayer

HeartStrings: The Attitude of Anger

•08/19/2014 • Leave a Comment

In His Sermon on the mount, Jesus raises the level of righteousness. He informs His disciples that the righteousness of His disciples is higher than that of the scribes and Pharisees, the religious elite of His day. The righteousness of Christ’s is a permanent position received at salvation or conversion that reconciles us to a right relationship with God and that makes us acceptable before a Him. Yet, that position will lead us to a higher standard than that of religion and the traditions set by men. Righteousness is a matter of the heart and can only be receive through a new heart, a new mind and a new life. Once that righteousness is received, then and only then can the Christ-follower reflect the higher righteousness Christ describes in His Sermon on the Mount.
Jesus explains this new standard by describing 6 attitudes of the heart that need to be fine tuned in order to meet met this new standard. He states that the first attitude we nedd to fine tune is Anger. Jesus words inform His disciples that there’s a principle to rebuild, a poster to reconcile and a practice to reconsider.
In Matthew 5:21-26, Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Let’s be honest, we all get angry. We all have either expressed anger or been the recipient of someone else’s anger. Some of us suppress it, some of us deny it exists, some of us excuse it while others just let it out without any consideration of the consequences or the damage is does to our relationship with others and God. Suppressing anger turns into bitterness and bitterness becomes a prison that not only effects the one who harbors it but it effects every one around it. Anger must be dealt with in a Biblical way that reflects the heart of a transformed disciple of Christ.
I invite you to reconsider the Words of Christ and let God speak to you through His Word and Spirit. He meant for us to live free from the prison of anger and the damage it brings to marriages, families, churches, communities and even nations. There would be fewer divorces, broken families, fighting churches, hostile communities and warring nations if we learned to deal with our anger from a transformed heart and a Biblical perspective.